A divided City Council voted Wednesday against a proposed change in the lighting and landscaping assessment that would have lowered rates for residents but raised them for businesses and owners of multifamily dwellings.
"We have to encourage the businesses as much as we can in this time of recession," Councilman Ho Chung said. "Nobody wants to pay more at this time. Even a couple dollars they complain about."
The decision, continued from Tuesday night's council meeting, freezes the current rate structure until next year while the city studies alternatives.
The plan was developed by a committee of residents who were concerned about what they saw as inequities in the assessment process. Businesses, industry, mobile-home parks and multifamily units would have paid higher fees, while single-family homeowners would have seen their rates go down, Assistant City Manager Mike Fenderson said.
Leyes and Chung pointed out that some businesses would have seen drastic increases in their rates--in one case paying as much as 10 times more.
"I don't feel business owners had a say in this," Councilman Tony Ingegneri said.
Mayor Bruce A. Broadwater and Councilman Robert F. Dinsen spoke in favor of the new assessment plan, however. Broadwater argued that, while some glitches needed attention, the overall fee structure would have been fairer than the existing one.
The council agreed to convene a new committee of residents, merchants and property owners to revisit the issue over the next year.